Happy Birthday to the Church!
Today is Pentecost Sunday, which is the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon 120 believers in Jesus. This is the birthday of the Church, and it occurred about 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, and a few days after His ascension!
As well, this is Communion Sunday.
It seemed appropriate for this Sunday to look at the concept in Scripture of
“God with us”: Emmanuel.
We just sang,
“All Hail King Jesus, All Hail Emmanuel,”
and we understand our terminology.
But we didn’t always understand it, nor are we born with such knowledge.
This needed to be revealed to us, as a curtain when it is opened will reveal something more than was previously visible.
There are two characters in the Bible, besides Jesus, whom I think about when I consider the name Emmanuel:
- Isaiah and
In Isaiah’s case, he gave a prophecy that had a short-term fulfillment and a long-term fulfillment, too.
A child would be born to a young woman in Isaiah’s time and named, “Emmanuel,” and yet, he prophesied about a virgin giving birth, and the name of the child would be “Emmanuel.”
Joseph experienced the long-term fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
The miraculous conception and birth of Jesus is connected with the name Emmanuel.
The greatest of creative miracles is connected with God being with us.
As we know,
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)”
“3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:3).”
Let’s look at a passage of Scripture that we usually read at Christmas time:
I want to read from Matthew 1:18-25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel” (which means ““God with us””).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
God has created all that we know and see, …
He has created what we don’t yet know and cannot yet see.
He sees the beginning and the end. He sees what is deep and what is shallow.
One of God’s characteristics is Omnipresence, being everywhere at all time.
Yet, Emmanuel, “God with us” is something different than that.
Joseph is described as Faithful and Fearless.
Joseph’s faithfulness came from a fear of God and his fearlessness came from a faith in God.
Can we be the same?
I believe that we can.
That is because Emmanuel,
“God with us”
was not just something revealed to Isaiah or to Joseph, but to all of us, as well.
God calls us into an
- active relationship, not a
- passive placement.
For example, these drums don’t get played much, only when we’ve had special teams come or had a concert.
We would like to see them in an active relationship with the church, but today, they are in a passive relationship.
They look good, but they are not here for looks.
We as followers of Jesus may look good, but God doesn’t call us to look good.
Compared to God we look like nothing, but when we enter into a relationship with Emmanuel,
“God with us,”
then we look great…because it is not we who God sees, nor even the world, but it is Jesus.
“God with us”
is a simple statement. Let’s look at it.
Jesus is God in the flesh.
Jesus himself said that God is Spirit, and yet, he also said that he and the Father are One.
God sent His Son to draw us into a relationship with him.
You see, God was already present.
He is Omnipresent…everywhere all the time, but in Jesus, He came in a way for us to understand and know.
He came in a way for us to relate.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he ascended into heaven.
And on the day of Pentecost, He sent His Holy Spirit.
Jesus had described the Holy Spirit as “Another who was the Same,” and so having the Spirit of God among us, now, is the continuation of Emmanuel.
“God with us”.
“With” is a small word.
In Spanish it is even smaller
and in Russian it is just a prefix,
But with makes all the difference.
What if Emmanuel were not “God with us”, but God WITHOUT us?
Or God AWAY FROM us?
Or as our pluralistic society would ask,
“WHICH” God is WITH us?
And our Materialistic society doesn’t want to be far from the
God of Money being with us.
But He is “God with us”.
He wants a relationship with us.
He has initiated it.
This week my mother had a difficult time.
I tried to be WITH her, often.
I was with her in her home, and made the 911 call.
I was with her in the ambulance (my first time).
I was with her in the ER (my first time with her).
I was with her in her hospital rooms.
Being WITH someone is significant.
- she was having a bad reaction to medication,
- and was pulling at her IV and
- pulled her mask off of her face.
I was glad that I had walked in on her and was WITH her,
so I could tell the nurses that she needed help.
But, my body didn’t take well to being WITH my mother so much.
I’m tired and exhausted.
I would awaken and pray (it was better than worry).
Yet, all along, God has been with mom.
Even though the pain meds caused her to think that she was in different places other than a hospital bed,
God knew where she was and was WITH her, and still IS.
God was with Abraham,
although Abraham was not the only believer in God at that time,
certainly Lot was a believer, though weak,
and so was Melchizedek.
And Job was a contemporary of Abraham.
In all of these cases, “God with us” meant that no matter where that person was, God was there, too.
Abraham heard God’s voice while in Iraq, and moved to Turkey, then he moved to Israel, and spent some time in Egypt, too.
God was WITH Abraham in all of those places, which was significant, because in the ancient world, man thought that their gods were only for a small area.
I think it is historic that at our English Conversation Café this week, we had a visitor from Iraq who is actually an atheist (this is an unreported trend in the Muslim world, today).
Let’s pray that our friend from Iraq will hear God’s voice and believe in Emmanuel.
As God is WITH us, we are invited to be WITH Him, too.
In a few moments, we will be taking communion.
I want us to take a bit of time, now, to reflect upon God being with us.
Jesus died for all of us.
He died for the whole world.
He died even though we were still sinners.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.
1 Timothy 1:15
“God with us” is a promise.
He has to come to us, that we would be with Him.
God calls US into a relationship, and that relationship is with EACH OTHER.
We are all made in His Image, and we all need to recognize His Image in each other.
Our battles are not to be against flesh and blood, according to the Word of God that has been written to US, but our battle is against the spiritual forces that war against us:
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The Scripture continues to describe God’s spiritual armor against Satan’s weapons of words and thoughts.
But this armor does not cover our back, it only covers the front.
There reason is that we are to cover each other’s back.
We do this in prayer.
We do this in right relationship.
We do this by healthy communicating.
We do this by building each other up, and not by tearing each other down.
We use our lips for prayer and not for gossip.
We use our hearts for worship and not for bitterness.
Let’s pause, again, and this time, let us bless those who curse us, and let us forgive those who have hurt us.
As we approach the Lord’s Table, today, let us do so, in confidence, that He calls us, and that He calls us a relationship of love with Him and with each other.
[Approach the altar, place offering into box, and take communion elements. Then wait until all are served.]
[Sing “O Come to the Altar”]